Early risers – 10 secret benefits of running in the morning

Photo of author
By Stuart
Goulden

Avid runner. 10x marathons. Daily 10kms. Award-winning journalist when not moving (about me)

To run early in the morning is to live two lives.

The mental boost it gives your day. The thrill of a magical sunrise. Immersed in nature. The rest of the world still sleeping. There’s no better feeling.

We greatly underestimate how powerful running in the morning can be – whether it’s a solo endeavor or a pre-work running club.

Below, I share the many benefits I experience from morning runs, in addition to the proven scientific gains. Covering forming good habits and building a healthier lifestyle, deeper sleep, improved mental wellbeing, and burning more calories, a morning jog is a great way to start any day. A pathway to a healthier, more productive, and enriched life.

The many benefits of running in the morning

  1. Productivity gains throughout the day
  2. Deeper sleep
  3. Improved mental health
  4. Burn more calories
  5. Creative problem-solving
  6. Improves race day preparation
  7. Added motivation early in the morning
  8. Ensures a good start to the day
  9. Kick-starts your metabolism
  10. The most inspiring time of day

#1: Aids mental focus and work productivity

A morning runs sets the tone for the day, giving you a sense of accomplishment before anyone else is even awake. Stoic athletes swear by the discipline of a morning training session.

It’s also much easier to deliver focused work on the back of a morning workout and find your flow state. The benefits of which extend throughout the day.

To get my grey matter going, I like to run with a few themes in mind:

  • Exploring (no set agenda, immersing myself in the run)
  • Expanding (listening to podcasts and audiobooks)
  • Engaging (in a specific question or challenge)

#2: Early runs improve sleep quality

This might seem counterintuitive because it’s getting you out of bed, but morning exercise works wonders for falling asleep and the quality of your night’s sleep.

Sleep latency, or sleep onset latency, is the time it takes a person to fall asleep after turning the lights out. The later you exercise the more wired you are come bed time. On the flip side, a study published in Sleep Medicine showed that morning workouts are especially helpful for those who have difficulty falling asleep.

Running in the morning also benefits deep sleep – the most important kind of sleep for physical rest. Healthy adults need about 13-23% of your sleep to be deep sleep.

Proper rest brings its own benefits:

  • Better moods
  • More productive
  • More present
  • More engaged
  • Improved stamina
  • Facilitates weight loss
  • Better overall health

#4: Lower stress levels on exercise days

Parkrun UK - runners get ready to start in York - rundure.com

Regular running routines are not only great for your body, they’re kind on your mind.

Hitting empty streets or immersing yourself in nature early takes you to an otherwise unreachable place of happiness. You’ll reduce stress, depression and anxiety, get more fresh air, and work through problems faster than ever. Running and jogging helps to build tremendous perspective and let go of the small things.

What’s more, the restorative mental wellbeing benefits of early exercise can stay with you long after you’ve physically recovered. A morning run sets you up for a good mental health day.

#4: Improves cardiovascular fitness more than any other time of day

Ok, it’s no secret that daily running can bring many health benefits.

However, research shows early mornings are the best time for improving your overall cardiovascular health – that is, the health of your heart and blood vessels.

This isn’t a one time hit. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggests that running daily (or at least most mornings) delivers lifelong health benefits.

It found that participants had a 30% lower risk of early death from heart and circulatory conditions and a 27% lower risk of early death from any cause.

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#5: Unlocks your creative potential and new ideas

Another benefit of running in the morning is how it repays itself with daily doses of inspiration.

There’s no better way to move beyond writer’s block, dream up new ideas, or work through a new challenge.

Early morning runs are great because nobody else is around. You’re free to wander, as is your mind. It’s only when we relieve ourselves from high-pressure situations and start to drift can we do our best thinking.

We’ve all had that epiphany when on a run or in the shower. Our subconscious mind has been searching for that killer idea or solution all along, but it’s only able to enter your conscious mind when there’s sufficient room.

Research shows a 60% boost in creative output when you lose yourself in solo exercise first thing in the morning.

#6: The routine improves race preparation

With most races starting at 9am-10am, it pays to build a consistent morning exercise routine.

The closer you get to that marathon (check out my Lisbon marathon review) or upcoming race, the more of an edge you can gain by mimicking race-day conditions during training. That includes warming up, running the same route at quiet times, and eating breakfast at the same time so you’re not running on an empty stomach.

Even if you’re not a morning person, your body will soon adapt to performing at its best early in the day.

#7: Strike when motivation is at its highest

If you’re anything like me, your motivation to run longer distances wanes as the day goes on.

Morning exercise helps you avoid distractions and overthink the miles ahead of you. Starting a new daily routine with a morning run will soon be a solid habit. I’m now on autopilot when I wake up, able to focus on how energizing a good run is.

This extends to non exercise days too. Even on rest days, I’m up early, ready to attack the day. It’s such a great feeling.

By comparison, I find that more excuses to not do evening workouts build up throughout the day.

#8: A liberating start to your day

Work. Family. Social events. Newborns. Life has a habit of getting in the way of strenuous physical exercise.

There are only so many hours in the day. So, you have to make time.

Just like the 5am writing club for people embarking on their debut novel, there’s far fewer demands on your time early in the day.

One of the biggest side benefits of running in the morning is that you have the rest of the day to do as you please. Doing so with a smugness and contentment only other adrenaline junkies will understand. Riding that runner’s high long after the run has finished.

#9: Lose weight and body fat (if that’s your goal!)

Running in the morning is an insanely efficient calorie burner.

One 30-minute run kick-starts your metabolism, burning between 200-500 calories. Excuse the running pun, but that’s a fantastic step forwards to any weight loss goal. Coupled with a healthy diet, jogging works like a dream for positive overall weight management.

As the pace picks up, so too calorie burning —up to 10 more calories per minute per mile.

Other health benefits of physical activity in the morning includes better heart and bone health, lower cholesterol levels and improved blood pressure.

#10: Awakens your sense of adventure

Exploring your local area before others are even awake brings enormous joy.

I love nothing more than being a home tourist when jogging. Hunting down awe on “Awe Runs“. Finding new routes. Embracing detours. Chasing magical sunrises. Stumbling upon flamingos (below). Cleaning up my neighborhood by plogging. Running is not a passive experience and having otherwise busy roads and routes to yourself allows you to take it all in.

Flamingos in Tavira, Portugal, spotted when running

Flamingos, spotted when running in Tavira, Portugal

Running at a slower pace is also great for immersing yourself in a new holiday destination. You’ll uncover the best places to eat, beautiful parks, epic street art and early morning coffee spots. All when they’re at their quietest too.

In summary: What the best time to go running?

Running in the morning can be addictive – benefiting your sleep, mood, productivity and fitness.

You’ll feel a satisfaction and high that lasts all day, knowing you’ve started it in the best possible way, long before others are even awake.

Of course, they’ll be days you don’t want to. You won’t always want to leap out of bed and put on your running gear. Running in the cold or rain can be tough. I get it.

It’s important not to be too self critical or beat yourself up. You’re only human. Rest days are important too.

My advice is to make the most of the good days. Try to run a bit further or faster on the days you’re most motivated to get out. The more consistently you go, the more likely you are to build a habit around morning runs and start to do so on autopilot.

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